Using a combination of purposive and snowball sampling, 16 TAY with DD living with their families in South Korea were invited to participate in the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted via Zoom, with varying degrees of assistance from mothers or service providers. Upon completion of the first interview, seven participants were invited to the second interview for further exploration, yielding 23 interviews for data analysis. Participants were 17–24 years of age (mean = 20.2), and most were male (n = 11). The type of disability of the participants was intellectual disability (n = 7), autism spectrum disorder (n = 6), or a combination of both (n = 3).
The thematic analysis yielded the following main themes and sub-themes regarding the building blocks of the transition to adulthood: (1) daily living skills (e.g., participation in household chores and difficulty in coping with negative emotions), (2) relationship development and social skills (e.g., positive relationships with parents, limited social relationships, and superficial understanding of dating), (3) self-reliance and readiness for independence (e.g., lack of understanding of independence, inexperience in managing finances, and engagement in meaningful activities), and (4) efforts needed to help them thrive in the future (e.g., more community-based services and inclusivity).
Based on the principle of inclusion (e.g., “people with disabilities are experts”), understanding how TAY with DD experiences the transition to adulthood from their perspective is critical. Participants described their challenges, especially regarding social relationships and processing negative emotion. Our findings suggest ways to improve and expand community-based programs as well as promote a more inclusive society for TAY with DD.